Jefferson’s Bootstrap Capital Real Estate Idea

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Jan 21

A lottery to sell his home

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and the principal architect of their Declaration of Independence, was at one time the third wealthiest president, yet he died bankrupt.

In his effort to stave off bankruptcy and clear his debts before he passed away and before his daughter (Martha Washington Jefferson Randolph) inherited his estate, he came up with a unique idea–to sell off his beloved home and plantation at Monticello via a lottery. 

The home was appraised at $71,000 ($1.5 million in today’s currency*). His idea was to sell 11,480 lottery tickets at $10 each to raise $114,800. The lottery was to be run by New York-based Yates and McIntyre who agreed not to charge a fee.

There was initial enthusiasm for the idea with some suggesting that folks buy tickets and then destroy them so that president Jefferson could have the money and keep Monticello too.

Unfortunately, for Jefferson and Martha, several prominent New York citizens talked him out of this, proposing instead to launch a fundraising scheme, which failed.

When Jefferson wanted to revive the lottery, enthusiasm had cooled and few tickets were ever sold. 

Nevertheless, this is an example of creative financing, bootstrap capital and self-financing as applied to real estate. Today, echoes of Jefferson’s idea show up in things like the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario’s Dream of a Lifetime lottery, which has raised over $40 million since its inception in 1991(http://windsorstar.com/life/dream-of-a-lifetime-lottery-a-nightmare-for-ottawa-family). 

For $100 you can buy a ticket (or 3 for $250), which, if you win, nets you a monster home for “free”. The hospital’s foundation tries to sell 65,000 tickets to raise millions, and the homes are usually provided by a builder to the lottery for free or at a very low cost in return for promotion, marketing and goodwill.

Jefferson’s experience should caution you to be careful about listening to “experts”, friends and do-gooders, who can distract you from your original idea and path much to your personal detriment.

To be successful in real estate and business, you must have a good plan and the courage to stick to it.

@ profbruce

* source: http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2015/07/02/history/post-perspective/the-debt-and-death-of-thomas-jefferson-2.html

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